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Tony Bennett's Motto: Make Art, Not Politics

By Richard Leiby
The Washington Post
Sunday, March 13, 2005; Page D03

Legendary crooner Tony Bennett may be a proud liberal, but he wants us to know: "I'm not into politics. I just like to entertain people." (When we figure out how that actually differs from politics, we'll let you know.) "My favorite quote that I love to give is from Spencer Tracy: 'I don't care too much for my profession, but at least I can look down at politicians!' "

Nonetheless, the 78-year-old singer will be surrounded by Washington pols tomorrow night when he picks up the Creative Coalition's 2005 Capitol Hill Spotlight Award along with Sens. Max Baucus and Ted Stevens, who also are being honored for their support of the arts.

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Bennett is certainly no stranger here: He has sung for every president since Dwight Eisenhower -- excluding Richard Nixon, which was for no particular reason, he says. His favorite?

" President Clinton," he says without a pause. "I love him. He's just the nicest one I've met."

What about President Bush? "He's all right," the raspy-voiced entertainer tells us, without feeling. (By the way, he says: "I'm always raspy. I imitate Louis Armstrong.") "He's not my favorite. I'm a Democrat. In fact, I'm liberal! I know it's a bad word these days, but it's very good being a liberal Democrat. I think it's healthy."

Bennett was chosen for the honor this year because "the whole theme is supporting arts in America," says the Creative Coalition's executive director, Robin Bronk. Bennett's Exploring the Arts Inc. does just that by funding public school programs that connect kids to the arts. He also established the public Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens. (And, we should mention, Bennett, the singer's singer, is a painter, too.)

"He truly encapsulates doing well by doing good," Bronk says.

Michael J. Fox & Friends, Remembering Milly

• We hear that Michael J. Fox, a Parkinson's disease sufferer and research advocate, will attend an invitation-only Washington reception and screening this evening of "Saving Milly," the TV movie based on Morton Kondracke's memoir about his life as a political journalist and recovering alcoholic -- and, most importantly, his efforts to help his wife, activist Millicent Kondracke, who succumbed to Parkinson's last year after a 17-year battle.

The movie, for which Fox does an afterword, stars Madeleine Stowe and Bruce Greenwald as Milly and Mort. It airs on CBS at 9 tonight. Kondracke's colleagues from Roll Call and Fox News will attend the preview at George Washington University, along with members of the Parkinson's Action Network.

DC Style's Coming-Out Party: Polished to a High Glossy

• So begins the influx of new luxury magazines for Washington: Hundreds of glammed-up people -- we mean it; there were no Brooks Brothers clothes in sight -- herded themselves in and out of the very stylish launch party for DC Style mag Thursday night. Scantily clad women were in abundance and the men looked surprisingly well-tailored.

"We're celebrating the beautiful, sexy people in Washington," boasted the bimonthly mag's chief operating officer, Dana Spain-Smith. There was chatter that some of the model-quality women were imported for the event -- and given the fact that Spain-Smith's husband, Michael Spain-Smith, is a lingerie photographer, that makes sense. "He's really known for his T&A," his wife gushed.

A Philadelphian whose family made money in discount stores, she promises a magazine for those pursuing the glamorous life on a budget. The soiree, held at the hip but yet-to-open restaurant Oya on Ninth Street NW, drew no boldface politicos but had some notables from other fields: pro football Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell, the Washington Ballet's Septime Webre and Cafe Milano owner Franco Nuschese.

For those yearning for more celebrity gloss, two other publications are launching later this year: DC from the Chicago-based Modern Luxury group and New Yorker Jason Binn's Capitol File.

At This High-Stakes Game, Only One Player Holds All the Cards

• Celebrity Poker, D.C.-style: Some of the area's most monied capitalists ventured out for a little poker and deal-making at the Georgetown Club on Thursday night. Of the 250 men who tried to wangle an invite to the annual affair, only 30 lucky players made the cut, among them John Sculley, former CEO of Apple and Pepsi; Tom Wheeler, who sits on the boards of Cingular and Earthlink; Tommy Boggs of the law firm Patton Boggs; and Jack Kemp, the onetime Republican VP candidate.

It was the fourth such poker night hosted by InPhonic CEO David Steinberg for the top executives, directors and political pals linked to the mobile phone service and accessories company. "We chose poker because everybody really interacts," Steinberg told The Post's Laura Thomas. "We've cut a lot of deals at this meeting."

Despite their business savvy, the majority of guys carried a cheat sheet e-mailed out earlier that day that covered all the rules of the game. The five tables in the club's wine cellar were outfitted with M&M's (plain and peanut) as well as cigars and plenty of cards. Every few minutes the men would rotate tables musical chairs-style to maximize their schmooze time.

With all that money in one room, it seemed a shame that the boys were playing for nothing but their pride and a chance to win a few fun toys. Winner Len Samilant of InPhonic walked away with the coveted gold plastic crown and the grand prize, a 42-inch plasma television. The biggest loser, who chose to remain nameless, was rewarded with a copy of "Poker for Dummies." Better luck next time.

With Anne Schroeder


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